From Jon Heyman (SI):
A.J. Burnett threw another nice game with favored catcher Jose Molina behind the plate, allowing three hits and two earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. So look for Molina to remain his personal catcher thoughout the postseason. Yankees manager Joe Girardi and Burnett have suggested it was Girardi’s call to employ Molina. But of course it comes with Burnett’s unspoken (at least publicly unspoken) approval.
A couple of the Yankees’ more finicky star pitchers have had issues with Posada before, most notably Randy Johnson, who was eventually caught every game by backup John Flaherty. Others see the benefits of Molina but understand that the team is better off with Posada in the lineup. According to people in the Yankees’ clubhouse, the two biggest reasons Molina may be favored by pitchers are 1) game calling (and more specifically, the speed of his game calling), and 2) framing pitches.
Word is that Molina is much quicker than Posada at calling for pitches when there’s a baserunner at second base, enabling the pitcher to stay in rhythm, and also much more likely to accept a pitcher’s wishes. Posada is seen as slightly stubborn about his opinion of what pitch should be called. Molina is also viewed as one of the best in the league framing pitches, and thus stealing strikes. One pitcher said Molina may steal up to three or four strikes an inning when he’s at his best.
Heyman isn’t necessarily providing us with any new information here, as it’s common knowledge that Molina is a better game-caller than Posada and that he can frame pitches as if they were photographs. However, I did not know that Molina was more likely to accept a pitcher’s wishes, which explains why he’s able to an induce such a rhythmic tempo when he’s behind the plate. I’ve always thought that he took the lead and made good calls, making it easier for the pitcher to simply trust him and throw whatever it was that he asked for. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however, according to Heyman.
This, then, explains why A.J. Burnett and Joba Chamberlain seem to have such a good rapport with Molina. It’s a lot easier for a stubborn power pitcher to work with a fairly submissive catcher who accepts the pitcher’s pitch selection over his own, as this allows one to steer clear of a potentially harmful egotistical struggle. This intimate relationship between a pitcher and his catcher is a tremendously complex issue. There are a lot of psychological nuances involved, it seems. Too bad there isn’t any real statistic that I know of which probes the matter further (maybe the complexity prevents that, though).
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